Finland's Apex Predators
This year I had the privilege of leading three photography tours in Finland's remote eastern forests, right on the border with Russia for Wildlife Worldwide. Across the three trips we had some incredible sightings and exceptional photography, but as always, each had its own highlights.
In this blog I am going to share some of my favourite moments from across the three tours. The magic of this remote landscape, is that you never really know what will show up and when. On one particular tour we had an awful lot of close encounters with a young grey wolf, another we had multiple wolverines and on the third we had the opportunity to photograph a great grey owl nest.
Here is just a taster of what we saw ...
As you can see, no matter what the weather, there are always excellent opportunities to capture some stunning imagery. The grey wolf above hung around for a couple of hours one evening and the rain just added to the moment.
For me, the wolves are definitely the biggest draw. It is the only reliable location I know of where it is possible to capture stunning imagery of this elusive species. However, the area is fantastic for wolverines and brown bears, meaning there is never a dull moment. It is even more exciting when the different species show up at the same time.
It is important to say (as I always do), that food is put out to entice the predators in front of the purpose-built hides. Furthermore, the food put out is typically salmon scraps or meat that is not fit for human consumption.
There is the chance to join me in 2023 and photograph these incredible predators for yourself. You can find out more on the Wildlife Worldwide website and book your place on this wildlife photography extravaganza.
Finland's Finest Wildlife
I have been extremely fortunate, leading photography trips to Finland’s remote Boreal forests for a few years now. However, the first night of the trip I led for Wildlife Worldwide earlier this year, was without doubt one of the finest wildlife watching/photography experiences of my life.
It all started as we settled into our hides for the first night. Our cameras were still being set up, we hadn’t even sat down when a young wolf appeared on the edge of the treeline. By the time we had all of our gear ready, the wolf had disappeared, but it didn’t take long for our first photographic opportunity. To start with, it was bears galore. Coming to feed on the scraps and carcass that had been left out (this is all done under license and is strictly regulated).
As the evening flew by the wolves were joined by a pair of wolves, the alpha male and the new alpha female. I know the male well, having photographed him many times before and I did see the female last year. Below you can see a number of images from across our 4 nights in the hides and the video of what proved to be a moment of a lifetime.
As the light started to fade, a lone wolf was wandering across the marshy ground in front of the hides. It was then that another wolf begin to howl in the trees to our left. Incredibly the whole packed joined in, pups and all, and finally the lone wolf joined in too. As I write this I have goosebumps thinking back to it, a tingling sensation down my spine, for it was the most astonishing noise I have ever heard. To be so close to such an incredible evocative noise was a moment I will long cherish and to get it on camera is even more special.
Be sure to join me as I lead another Finland’s Boreal Predators photography tour for Wildlife Worldwide in 2020.
A Wild Time in Finland
It has been a crazy few months for me – I have been leading trips left, right and centre. No moaning from me though as it has been absolute delight to take so many fantastic people all over Europe, showing them some of the most incredible wildlife and hopefully helping them get some great images too!
The next instalment in this summer’s schedule was a trip to one of my favourite spots, right on the Finland’s eastern border with Russia. It is here I lead Wildlife Worldwide’s Boreal Predators Photography tour, which gives my clients a chance to photograph European brown bear, grey wolf and the feisty wolverine.
All I can really say about this year’s tour was wow, wow and well… WOW!
We were treated to a remarkable number of sightings of all three species and the photography opportunities were mesmerising. Even with a faulty camera I was able to capture some awesome images, my clients images really blew me away so it was a hugely successful trip.
And now to the photos, all I will say is that I hope you enjoy them…
It must be said that every night in the hides was productive and they allowed the entire group to capture a wonderful array of images. What I have included here are just a small taster. I have only included on wolverine as I was always in a hide that didn't have the prime views.
It is very important to me that my clients are the ones who get the best images, after all it is their holiday and I want them to get the most out of the experience.
On the last night of the trip the whole group were treated to some breathtaking sightings and unrivalled photography opportunities.
The images above (I think at least) perfectly demonstrate why Finland is such a superb destination for a photography holiday. The light is absolutely brilliant, the wildlife is stunning and the photography is very hard to beat.
So if you fancy joining me in 2019 for another foray into the boreal forests of Finland, be sure to visit Wildlife Worldwide's website for more information.
A land of countless lakes and seemingly infinite forests, Finland is one of Europe’s wilder corners. In recent years the country has become well regarded as the finest bear watching location outside of the Americas.
However, I had heard of a particular location (right on the Russian border), where it was possible to see and even photograph European Brown Bear, Wolverine and even Wolf. This place sounded too good to be true! So after a lot of digging and hours of reading through reports, I had all of the information I needed.
In the end I decided it would be a great place to run a wildlife photography tour with Wildlife Worldwide. We have named the tour ‘Boreal Predators Photography’ and it certainly lived up to its name this year. Towards the end of June I set off with 6 eager clients, all keen to photograph the iconic species of this border region, or ‘no man’s land’, between Finland and Russia.
Now I must start by saying that Finland hasn’t really had a spring in 2017, and therefore all the wildlife’s behaviour has been particularly unpredictable. We spent a total of 4 nights in the hides, all of which were different. This year was particularly cold, which makes it much harder to get comfortable within the hides, but our perseverance paid off in the end.
The first night was a little disappointing with only a couple of bears seen at a bit of a distance, one of which was particularly nervous. Don’t get me wrong, it is still incredible to see the magnificent mammals, it was only disappointing from a photographic opportunity point of view.
The second and third nights made up for it though, with at least 4 different wolverine spotted across 3 locations (the group had to be split on the second evening), the very nervous bear made another appearance and the icing on the cake had to be two Grey Wolves seen on both nights. On the second evening, a client and I were treated to a pair of Wolverine – the light was at its worst when they appeared, but we got a few acceptable shots in the end. Just as we thought the evening was coming to a close, it was probably around 3 am, I noticed a light shape moving on the edge of the forest. It was obscured by a light mist, but there was no mistaking what we had in front of us. It was a Grey Wolf … in fact there were two wolves. It was a magical encounter, a real privilege and a challenge to photograph in such low light and the mist.
It was the last night of the trip when everything really came together. We were only going to be in the hides until around midnight as we had to leave first thing for our flight back to Helsinki. I decided we should try our luck at the pond, where I had previously seen the two Wolverine and wolves.
I can honestly say that the evening was one of the very best I have had in my career. The light wasn’t necessarily the best, but the sightings we had are some of the finest anyone could possibly ask for. In fact, the evening actually started relatively slowly. It all seemed like it might be disappointing end to the trip.
As the sun was losing its strength and retreating over the tree line, one of my group spotted a large bear moving through some marshy ground. It was heading right at us, slowly powering through the swamp. You could hear the strength of every movement, it was absolutely incredible. The bear posed perfectly for us and the whole group managed to get some wonderful shots. Having had its fill on the salmon scraps left out, the bear slowly made its way back towards the forest, slowly melding into its wooded surrounds.
Having had such a remarkable encounter, everybody seemed to be settling back into their seats (figuratively speaking), when I noticed a familiar light shape on the edge of the treeline. I stopped myself from saying anything, took a breath, then raised my binoculars and my jaw slowly dropped. I knew what it was, but I didn’t really believe we could be so lucky. Surely I was suffering from sleep deprivation?
There some 70 yards away was a white wolf, the one I had seen at a distance on the previous two nights, and it was followed by a second wolf. The white wolf was the female, whilst the second was tan colour, and this was the male. The female slowly made her way towards the hides, seduced by the smell of the fresh meat of a carcass.
The next 15 minutes were spellbinding. She came to within only 20 metres of the hide … it was her size, her obvious power and that stare that left me breathless. I have never known a stare like it. I have been all over the world, photographing Polar Bears, Leopards and Tiger, but never has an animal looked at me with the same intensity or intelligence. This really was a once in a lifetime encounter and one that will stick with me for the rest of my days.
If you would like to join me in Finland, I will be leading another ‘Boreal Predators Photography’ tour with Wildlife Worldwide in June 2018. I can’t promise the tour will be the same as this year’s, but I can guarantee it will be a great adventure.
For the entirety of this trip I was using a Canon 500mm F4 IS II USM lens which was kindly provided by Fixation. I will be writing a separate post with a review and my thoughts on using the lens if the field.